This database is a collection of directories for various areas of the United Kingdom from the 1600s to the 1900s. Various types of directories exist, including:
- Street: listing of residents, businesses, and tradesmen according to street address
- Commercial: includes businesses, but may also include private residences; generally an alphabetical listing of traders
- Trade: not just for businesses, but anyone with a recognized trade or profession; an alphabetical listing of trades and businesses
- Court: lists wealthy residents and government officials
- Post Office: listing of householder's names and addresses
Many directories are named after the publishers, such as Pigot and Kelly. Most directories originally included maps. Over time, many of these maps were removed. Where still available as part of a directory, the maps are included in this database.
Directories were first published around the beginning of the nineteenth century; they primarily only covered cities and larger towns. The first major county directories were published around 1820. In London, however, some directories were published even earlier.
Information Contained in Directories:
The original purpose of directories was to provide information about towns and localities for travellers and other visitors. A directory would include a general description of the town or area and then include details on local transportation, churches, schools, government offices, shops, and businesses, etc. Sometimes information on specific people, such as businessmen, traders, and shopkeepers, was included as well.
Later directories began to include sections on private residents. At first this mainly consisted of the wealthier and more prominent individuals. Eventually the directories became more comprehensive and more residents, especially householders, were included regardless of social status.
Why use city directories:
Directories are great sources for locating people in a particular place and time. They are especially useful in between census years and in earlier years when censuses are non-existent. However, directories are also an excellent source for gathering details to help you place your ancestors in historical context. Because most directories provided descriptions and other information about the town and surrounding localities, directories can help you paint a picture of what life in that time and place might have actually been like.